Mansaf is a traditional Jordanian dish that consist of a combination of lamb meat, aromatic yellow rice, and a rich, tangy yogurt. It is considered the national dish of Jordan and is commonly served at family gatherings and special occasions.
The history of Mansaf was introduced by the local Jordanian tribes called Bedouin, which was originally a lamb cooked with rice, reflecting the nomadic lifestyle of the Bedouins. Over time, it evolved and gained cultural significance, becoming a staple in Jordanian cuisine.
Throughout these years, mansaf was modernized by introducing rice and yogurt called Jameed, which is a dry yogurt made from goat’s milk. Furthermore, when the country got its independence, it officially became its national dish.
As a Jordanian citizen, mansaf is not only a dish but also holds an important identity in my country which symbolizes hospitality, unity, and the rich cultural heritage of the region. We often served this dish at family gatherings, weddings, and other special occasions.
What is Mansaf?
It is a traditional dish from Jordan which is cooked using Jameed or plain yogurt sauce. The yogurt is combined with the broth of the Lamb that is boiled for many hours using different spices. It is served in a large serving platter where it is divided into 3 layers:
Firstly, we use a large thin flatbread called Markook (OR shrak bread in English), which we tear into smaller pieces and put around the plate. Secondly, the cooked turmeric rice is added above the flatbread, that is followed by lamb meats. Lastly, you pour the yogurt soup on it and sprinkle it with chopped parsley and fried almonds or pine nuts.
This dish is served during special occasions, national or religious holidays like Ramadan, or inviting special guests. I remember when I visited Jordan for the first time, my close relative made this dish since we were their guest in the house.
As a half Jordanian, Mansaf is important to us since this is part of our cultural heritage. In this post, you will learn the recipe that I learned from my father, that he learned from his mother.
There are several important ingredients you need to make this delicious Jordanian mansaf recipe:
1. Lamb: Lamb is the main protein in mansaf recipe which is traditionally used for its tender texture and rich flavor. I prefer to use lamb cut (such as shoulder or leg), as long you manage to have them chopped into pieces.
2. Plain Yogurt: While jameed is the traditional fermented yogurt product used in mansaf, I am using plain yogurt in this recipe. Jameed has a distinct tangy flavor and a thicker consistency compared to regular yogurt. Using plain yogurt helps maintain the creamy texture and tanginess essential to the dish.
3. Spices and Herbs: To give the broth flavorful, I add some spices and herbs. The Cardamom and cinnamon add a warm, slight sweetness, while allspice gives an earthy flavor. For the rest, I am using Bay leaves, peppercorns, and cloves to enhance the flavor of broth.
4. Garlic: Garlic will enhance the aroma of my mansaf. Although not traditional, it makes the sauce delicious. You can either mince or crush it to release its flavor during cooking.
5. Olive Oil: I use olive oil when sauteing the garlic. Also, you can drizzle over the finished mansaf for extra richness.
6. Lemon Juice: Since I am using plain yogurt, the Lemon juice will provide a tangy contrast to the richness of the dish, which will help balance the flavor of the sauce.
7. Long Grain Rice: I am using basmati rice since it can help absorb flavors while retaining a separate, fluffy texture. If you don’t have basmati, you can use any long-grain or medium-grain rice as long the rice is not sticky.
8. Flatbread– The flatbread is an important ingredient to complete my mansaf meal which you can use to scoop up and eat the meat, rice, and yogurt sauce in mansaf. You can use any round, unleavened bread or kuboos if you like since it wouldn’t make any difference at all.
9. Nuts- Although optional, you can use pine nuts or almond nuts.
Step by Step Instruction
Cooking Mansaf is a complex process since there are 4 things you need to do: Cooking the Lamb; Making the Laban sauce; Cooking the yellow rice; and Assembling the Mansaf
I. Cooking the Lamb
Step 1- I add the lamb to the pressure cooker
Step 2- Pour water and wait till it starts to boil
Step 3- After that, I add all the spices and herbs
Step 4- Next, I covered it with the lid and put on the pressure jigger valve. Let it cook for 45 minutes or until the lamb becomes soft.
II. Making the Laban (Yogurt) Sauce
Step 5- I pour the plain yogurt and lamb stock into the blender to help liquefy the sauce.
Step 6- 7- Next, I poured olive oil and transferred the blended yogurt sauce into the new pot. Use the large cooking spoon to gently stir the sauce for 3 to 5 minutes
Step 8- Lastly, add the meat and the broth from the cooked lamb.
Step 9- To enhance the flavor of the sauce, I saute the garlic in olive oil in a separate cooking pan till it turns light brown.
Step 10- After that, I transfer the sauteed garlic into the laban sauce. Lastly, add the lemon juice and gently stir to combine. Once done, set it aside and prepare to make the rice.
III. Making the Rice
Step 11- I stirred the basmati rice with olive oil in a separate cooking pot for 30 seconds before I poured water. When it’s boiling, add a turmeric-water mixture. This will change the color of the rice to yellow.
Step 12- Once the water is almost evaporated, I lower the heat to continue cooking the rice till it is soft and fluffy.
IV. Assembling the Mansaf
For presentation purposes, I use a large serving plate which is common in our Jordanian culture.
On this plate, I put the flatbread, which I tear into small pieces, around the plate. Next, I add the rice and then the lamb meat. After that, I pour the soup around the rice and lamb using the ladle spoon.
And lastly, before you dig in, sprinkle with chopped parsley and fried almonds or any nuts you like. In my opinion, the nuts are not needed in this dish since they wouldn’t make any difference in terms of taste.
How do you eat Mansaf?
I learned from my father, that in our Jordanian culture, we eat using our right hand while we put our left hand behind our back. And then we make a ball shape using our 3-fingers (thumb, index, and middle fingers) which we later put in our mouth. But, one thing to know that this is just a tradition and not a mandatory practice. You can eat using a spoon or entire fingers of your hand without making a ball-shaped.
Tips and Hints
- It is traditional to serve mansaf with slices of white onion or spring onion as a side dish.
- Make sure you have extra yogurt sauce, and serve in a plate bowl, in case you want to pour more in your rice.
- Mansaf sauce can last for up to 5 days if in the fridge.
- If using nuts as a garnish, lightly toast them in a pan to bring out their flavor.
- For visually appealing presentation, Place the teared flatbread below followed by rice, surround it with the meat, and drizzle the yogurt sauce over the top.
- Rinse the basmati rice several times before soaking it in water for 30 minutes to help reduce the excess starch.
Other Arabic Meat & Rice Recipes
Here are other Arabian meat with rice dishes that you can try to make at home:
📋 Recipe Card
Mansaf is a traditional national dish of Jordan which contain tender lamb, fragrant yellow rice, and a yogurt This dish is a staple at family gatherings and special occasions in Jordan.
For Lamb Meat
- 1 kilo Lamb bone-in cuts You can use lamb cut or shank
- Water Enough to cover the lamb
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 medium cinnamon stick
- 8 peppercorns
- 5 cloves
- 1 teaspoon of allspice powder
- ¼ teaspoon of cardamom powder
For Laban Sauce
- 2 cup of Lamb stock
- 2 cup of plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoon of olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 4 tablespoon of lemon juice
For Making the Rice
- 2 Tablespoon of olive oil
- 3 cup of soaked long grain rice
- 6 cup of water
- 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- Fried Almond for Garnish
- Chopped Parsley for Garnish
- 3 Flatbread or kuboos
Cooking the Lamb
Place the lamb in the pressure cooker.
Pour in water and wait until it comes to a boil.
Add all the spices and herbs.
Cover with the lid and secure the pressure jigger valve. Allow it to cook for approximately 45 minutes or until the lamb is tender.
Making the Laban Sauce
Combine plain yogurt and lamb stock in a blender to create a smooth, liquefied sauce.
In a new pot, add olive oil and transfer the blended yogurt sauce. Gently stir over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes.
Incorporate the cooked lamb pieces along with the broth from the pressure cooker.
To enhance the flavor, sauté garlic in olive oil in a separate pan until it turns light brown.
Add the sautéed garlic to the laban sauce, followed by lemon juice. Gently stir to combine. Set the sauce aside as you prepare the rice.
Making the Rice
In a separate pot, briefly sauté basmati rice with olive oil for about 30 seconds. Add water and bring it to a boil. Introduce a turmeric-water mixture to give the rice a yellow hue.
As the water evaporates, reduce the heat and allow the rice to continue cooking until it is soft and fluffy.
For Assembling the Mansaf
Lay out the torn flatbread around the perimeter of a clean, large serving platter.
Spread the cooked rice evenly over the flatbread.
Arrange the tender lamb meat on top of the rice.
Generously pour the yogurt sauce over the entire dish.
Finish by garnishing with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a scattering of fried almonds or pine nuts.
- Soaked the basmati rice for 30 minutes before cooking them
Serving: 1gCalories: 645kcalCarbohydrates: 70gProtein: 28gFat: 30gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2.5gMonounsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 85mgSodium: 400mgPotassium: 375mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 50IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 165mgIron: 3mg